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Why the Iphone Could Be Bad News For Computer Science

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Cambridge Computer Laboratory

The University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory is ramping up efforts to recruit more IT students.

Credit: artq55 via

Robert Harle, assistant director of research at the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, says the closed philosophy of devices such as the iPhone discourages the kind of tinkering that encouraged generations of computer scientists in the past.

"People can use their iPhone . . . but they don't want to delve into it, they don't want to understand the depths behind it," Harle says. "And I have a sneaking suspicion this is partly because we've got to the stage now with computing, computer science, [information technology], whatever you like, that it's now such a black box, such a complex thing, that you can't really fiddle in the same way as people used to."

Cambridge's Computer Laboratory averages about 80 new students a year, down from 150 several years ago. In response, the school has launched a new website to promote the study of computer science, and is participating in open days and regional student conferences. Students also are not getting enough computer science education in grade school, which is bringing down university computer science enrollment numbers, and in turn, giving kids the wrong idea of what computer science is, Harle says.

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